One thing which is never heard here in the Flin Flon area is the complaint that there is nothing to do. January is no different. There are Bomber hockey games, Nordic skiing, snowmobile riding on beautiful trails and of course, fishing - of the ice variety, but profitable nonetheless. Do the kids still practice snowboarding jumps at Waly Heights? That was a big deal 10 years ago.
The arts and cultural community is not hibernating either.
We have already seen Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s amazing production of “The New Canadian Curling Club” by Mark Crawford and a Living Room Live classical show. We will have Doc Walker in concert (Jan. 24, tickets $35 at Northern Rainbow’s End), a Loaded Mic night featuring Lane Laderoute, Courtney Lycan and Chris Lengyel, Syd Tippett, Emily Sparkling, Imrieanna Jones and Ishakapella with host Trevor Gordon Sytnick (Jan. 25, tickets $20 at Orange Toad) and an Arts Council cabaret with the Saskatoon Celtic band The Residuals (Feb. 1, tickets $30 at Northern Rainbow’s End) to round out the month of performances.
We begin this column with some sadness as we report that Mitch Podolak, the creator of so many folk/roots institutions in Manitoba and across Canada, died August 25. He left a tremendous legacy to everyone who listens to music in every format, but most especially to those among us who love live music, especially when it is played acoustically in a group.
Mitch was a colourful character. An avowed communist and general rabble-rouser, he was larger than life when he spoke and he loved to push the buttons of “the establishment” with some of his pronouncements, but to those who knew him he was so supportive and kind. He had ideas. Man, did he have ideas – and he shared them so generously. That’s how the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Edmonton Folk Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Children’s Festival, the West End Cultural Centre and the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, NS came into being, Mitch had vision.
We are all about Trout this week in Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach.
Trout Festival is our big kick-off for summer fun, although the Main ARTery opening gala gave it a bit of competition last week. Trout Festival has been a summer staple in Flin Flon for 69 years and has seen ebbs and flows of popularity, usually in response to the perceived fortunes or disappointments of the mining company over its many years. Gone are the days of Queen Mermaids and flour-packing contests (thankfully, some would say) but other, totally fun items remain, if in modified formats.
“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is?
They say the bird is on the wing, Ain’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird!”
I always thought that Ogden Nash wrote that little poem, but when I checked to be sure, before I put it into the newspaper, I discovered that it was the prolific writer Anonymous! Ah well, another childhood dream gone.
April is National Poetry Month and the Flin Flon Writers Guild hosted another wonderful Poetry Night, in conjunction with the Flin Flon Public Library. A veritable who’s who of area residents read some wonderful writings from all over the world. The chorus of Mamma Mia was excused from those duties in honour of the event. Poetry does not often get its place in the limelight and we have some amazing talent in our communities - perhaps we should incorporate some readings at Culture Days celebrations?
What a whirlwind two weeks we have just had! Ann Hodges, the extraordinary director bringing our Flin Flon and area cast into the (stage) light of Mamma Mia was here to set up the whole stage play. Also along for the ride was Seth Johnson, from a small town outside St. John, NB via Toronto, who will play Sky, Sophie’s love interest. Even though we have had the experience of Hodges’ talent before, one must marvel at just how easy she makes it seem to put a musical on the stage. Between Feb 1 and Feb 10, the entire show came together before our eyes. Teachers, nurses, geologists and radio DJs became Sophie, Donna, Bill and Sam; dancers and actors emerged while we looked on - awestruck!
This is the last column of 2018, so Happy Holidays to all!
It has been an amazing year of arts and cultural events in Flin Flon and area, but hold on to your hats because, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
Last year kicked off with a bang. We had a Loaded Mic night produced by Trevor Gordon at Johnny’s Social Club, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Film Their Finest at Hapnot’s Dorothy Ash Theatre, the incredible Quartetto Gelato at the RH Channing Auditorium and our Amisk Tours trip to Winnipeg to see the exceptional production of “Come From Away” at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. That trip included a stay at the Inn at the Forks, dinner at Smith restaurant and a fabulous question and answer session with RMTC artistic director Stephen Schipper. The NorVA exhibition was Joseph Reys: Fever Dreams and a show of bird prints by Beth Gillespie. And that was only January.
What an exceptional way to kick off a New Year in Flin Flon, dare we say it, the arts and culture capital of Manitoba! We are starting the year with two exceptional shows that “come from away”.
The first happens immediately, January 9 on the stage at the R.H. Channing Auditorium. Living Room Live presents Gregory Lewis and Paul Williamson on piano and violin. As the name of this concert series suggests, this is a Home Routes-style tour of house concerts - this time, with classically trained musicians. Here in Flin Flon, we choose to present them on the stage of the hall because we have the Steinway piano there. This beautiful instrument has been recently tuned and had a small kink worked out so is in top form for the concert.
My, how time flies when you’re having fun! Summer is almost over, kids will head back to school next week and the new arts and culture season is getting underway. Many of you will already know this, but Flin Flon’s fearless culture leader Crystal Kolt embarked on a fantastic voyage of discovery during the summer.
She flew to France at the beginning of July and is still, as of this writing, walking through Spain on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela - a 1,600 kilometre pilgrimage to the burial place of St. James. The walk begins in southern France and crosses the Pyrenees into Spain, ending in Galicia. Pilgrims have been traversing the route since the ninth century. Crystal will have many stories to tell upon her return, so be sure to ask for them.
As Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach gear up for summer, arts and cultural happenings just keep on coming.
The big event in this time period is the opening night of the Main ARTery public art gallery on Main Street in Flin Flon and in Creighton. It will take place on Wednesday, June 19 (not the 13th as previously noted) from 5 to 7 p.m.
Twenty-eight banners will hang from light standards on Flin Flon’s Main Street and several more will be in Creighton and Denare Beach throughout the summer, showing the work and talent of over 30 Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach-area artists.
Many artists are quite familiar to the region’s arts and culture community, but there are some surprises too.
Even if the weather is not very cooperative, there are good times to be had at Johnny’s Social Club courtesy of the Local Roots organization. Doug McGregor and Ann Ross organize and host these opportunities for local area musicians to strut their stuff, often at their home. Every once in a while, they decide it’s time to give back, usually to an organization that does good works, by hosting a fundraising evening. April 6 will be such an event and the beneficiary this time is A Port in the Storm, a Winnipeg-based group that provides accommodation for people from rural and northern Manitoba who need to be in Winnipeg for extended stays for health reasons.
There are some wonderful performances coming up in Flin Flon over the weekend.
On Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9, the incredible and amazing Lynne Hanson will be performing house concerts in town as part of the Home Routes series. These shows are always special, but this month is exceptional.
Hanson won in two of the five categories she was nominated in at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in December 2018. She won in the English language songwriting category and with her collaborator Lynn Miles in the contemporary ensemble category.
It’s getting colder! Fall is closing fast and there has already been some short skiffs of snow but the arts and cultural communities in the Flin Flon/Creighton/Denare Beach area are working hard behind the scenes to bring some top-notch entertainment your way. Our dear friend Keith Reed reminded us all to be grateful for the work that goes into local productions like the recently completed Rocky Horror Picture Show at Johnny’s Social Club. This show was entirely produced in Flin Flon, meaning everything from the musicians and singers, actors, costumes, makeup, sound and lighting and direction of the whole shebang was homegrown. The funds raised will remain in the community as well, to further enhance local capacity to present quality products.
This column is our last chance to share the wonder that is going to be, as it was last year, Blueberry Jam Music Gathering.
Anyone who was there in 2018 (and there were lots, over 1,000 attendees by some estimations) knows how much fun it was. Such a great atmosphere was created with all the bands and solo musicians from Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach, The Pas, Snow Lake and even a few from far away places like Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.
Lucky Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach residents have wonderful arts and culture experiences to look forward to in the next couple of weeks.
Do you remember when we essentially pulled down the blinds on such events after the musical wrapped and we didn’t get up and running again till October? It doesn’t seem all that long ago and yet it feels like a hundred years!
We don’t have that problem any more.
This is a very exciting weekend for Flin Flon/Creighton/Denare Beach area audiences because the ballet is coming to town. Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, a premier international company from Toronto, will be here on Saturday, March 23 to perform Coppélia. This will be the first full-length ballet ever performed here and I think it will be magnificent.
We have had ballet before, with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) performing in the RH Channing Auditorium some years ago and the Professional School of the RWB just three years ago. They were wonderful and beautiful to watch dancing excerpts from ballets in their repertoire which were lovely, but you didn’t actually see the story unfold. It’s not the same when you only read it in the program. Ballet Jörgen will dance the whole story of Coppélia right in front of our eyes.
By the time you read this, we will have met the three Inspiration: Knowledge and Development presenters, Dorothy Dobbie, Jean Giguere and Janice Price and we will have attended the tourism summit at the Creighton Community Centre.
With any luck, we will have exited the deep freeze as well. Hope everyone had a great and informative time. This column will roll out the ideas generated for our communities in the next few weeks.
We all know that Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach are all about Culture Days, but this year is special. Culture Days is a national celebration of arts and culture held annually on the last weekend of September. Flin Flon and area has been listed in the top ten communities in Canada every year since its inception for the number and scope of the arts and cultural activities we offer for the general public.
This year will be no different, though the national organizers have determined they don’t require ranking anymore.
People will still be able to partake in as many events as they can squeeze into three days, including favourites like Pictures at an Exhibition, an afternoon of musical improvisation and visual art that is like nothing else you will ever see or hear, or the Wild Things Market where you can satisfy your hunger or thirst, listen to music, try vintage clothing and watch the magic that is raku pottery emerging from the fire. There’s learning both the complexity and simplicity of the Seven Sacred Teachings with Elder Margaret Head-Steppan, or the Wild Rice Cabaret, where you can watch the joy of several visual artists as they produce a complete original art piece in an evening together, all the while enjoying the best of the Flin Flon area music scene in performance.
“Hot time, summer in the city…” Perhaps not exactly with the weather we have been getting but, Flin Flon is still a happenin’ place for arts and culture in July. In the next two weeks, we have a couple of fine events for your enjoyment of the region. First up is the NorVA Centre’s Summer Retreat in Denare Beach, Sask.
Each year, NorVA artists invite their colleagues in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to our little piece of heaven to learn, practice and grow in their preferred artistic media. Artists come and stay in the region for a week and go to the Denareplex each day to make art. They engage in painting and watercolour, batiks, printmaking and raku pottery firing, among others. There have been puppet-makers and writers involved. Any artistic pursuit is honoured. The artists swap techniques and try new things in service to their art.
Here they – the Flin Flon Community Choir, under the direction of Crystal Kolt – goes again. My, my; how can we resist them?
One of the most popular musical experiences of the new millenium comes to Flin Flon on May 9-12 and the good news is there were, at press time, still 60 tickets available for the various nights of the run.
The cast is spectacular, thanks in no small part to the hard work and incredible experience of Ann Hodges, director extraordinaire. She came, she saw and she moulded the cast, dancers and crew into shape evenings and weekends, after work for most. Of course, she has done it before with Les Miserables, but this production has dancing. Hodges is really talented and can “see” the whole show so she can pace the action and hit the “buttons” (that’s a term I learned from sneaking into rehearsals) for maximum effect. All the while, she builds to the big moments. She really is brilliant.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, there is a lot going on in Flin Flon this weekend. It still amazes that it is still true.
We are wrapping up International Women’s Day (which was seriously International Women’s Week) with a Local Routes performance on Friday at Doug and Ann’s Magical Cabaret (okay - I made that up but it really does need a name). Doors are open at 7 p.m. and the entertainment is free. There will be snacks courtesy of the International Women’s Day Committee and tea and coffee courtesy of Ann.
Happy New Year, everyone! This will be a year of change for our town and the whole region, as Hudbay makes the initial changes that may affect the workforce. There may be some challenges in our future, so we will have to try to initiate new and diverse economic opportunities for all. After all, we are a diverse and resilient community and we have no end of talent, so let’s get this party started and make a meaningful contribution to the Flin Flon area.
The NorVA Centre is opening a new exhibition by local photographer Bea Walker and local sculptor Doug Dmytriw in January. The opening reception and artists’ talks will be on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at NorVA and the show will run throughout January.